‘Children in conflict with the law’ is defined as anyone under 18 who comes into contact with the justice system as a result of being suspected or accused of committing an offence. Who is a child? A child is every person below 18 years. In Uganda, every child from 12 years and above can be held liable for any criminal act.
A person who thinks he or she is aggrieved by actions of a child, which may be civil or criminal, may report the matter to any of the following institutions:
- FAMILY OF THE CHILD (MEDIATION)
- THE LOCAL COUNCIL COURTS (LCC)
- THE UGANDA POLICE FORCE (CFPU UNIT)
- THE COURTS OF JUDICATURE (Family and Children Court (FCC), High Court)
In this article we will have a closer look at the option of getting in contact with the Local Council Courts
- THE LOCAL COUNCILS’ COURTS (LCC)
- Local Council Courts are established at village level in accordance with the Local Council Courts Act 2006.
- Their Jurisdiction in cases of children is however defined in the Children Act,
- A village LCC has criminal jurisdiction to try a child and it is the court of first instance for any of the following offences involving children.
- Common assault,
- Affray, (Fighting)
- Causing bodily harm under section
- Criminal trespass, and
- Malicious damage to property.
What steps does a person take to lodge a complaint with the Local Council Court (LCC)?
- A complaint is lodged to the area Local Council1 where the matter happened or where the complainant or accused stays. Every village LCC can only handle cases within its territorial jurisdiction.
- The complaint may be in writing or oral but if made orally it shall be reduced into writing and signed by LC chairperson or the secretary and counter signed by the complainant.
- The Chairperson or Secretary will prepare and sign summons which will be delivered to the accused’s home indicating the complainant, place and time for hearing the matter.
JCU supports you with lodging the complaint with the LCC and provides free legal representation in courts of law
How should the local council courts (LCCs) handle cases involving children?
- LCs courts are not allowed to put a child under custody or detention.
- Proceeding must be held in camera (carried out in private, in the absence of the public and the press) It shouldn’t be a public hearing, only concerned parties and witnesses should be allowed in the meeting.
- The case must be handled within 3 months.
- The case should be heard in an informal and child friendly environment.
- The victim in the case should be encouraged to attend the proceedings.
- Parents/guardians/fit person/Probation & Social Welfare Officer of the child must attend the proceedings.
- The child should be heard and his or her opinion must be taken into account.
- The Court should decide quickly and not be bogged down by technicalities and rules of evidence.
- Each side should be allowed to bring witnesses to give evidence.
- The right to appeal in 14 days must be explained to the child.
- Where a child repeatedly commits offences, the LC Court should contact the Probation and social welfare officer who will arrange to take the child to the Family and Children Court for an appropriate court order.
- The LC Court may ask some community volunteers to act as fit persons, to assist in handling supervising and guiding children.
What remedies/orders may be passed by the LCC while handling children matters?
- reconciliation: This is the process of two people or groups in a conflict agreeing to make amends or come to a truce.
- compensation is awarded by a court when a defendant is determined to have acted negligently caused harm to someone
- restitution involves the court, as part of a sentence in a criminal case, ordering a defendant to compensate the victim for losses suffered as a result of the crime
- community service is a form of punishment intended to benefit the community that’s been harmed by an offender’s crime. Judges often order offenders to perform community service in addition to or instead of other forms of punishment, such as incarceration, fines, or probation.
- apology: Court can order a child to say sorry and let them off the hook or caution (give a formal warning )them
- The court may make a guidance order under which the child shall be required to submit himself or herself to the guidance, supervision, advice and assistance of a person designated by the court.
What role does Justice Centres Uganda play in ensuring a child-friendly justice system for juvenile offenders?
- Mediation of matters that can be settled outside court, at LCC or at family level
- Provision of free legal representation in courts of law
- Ensuring other institutions observe children rights especially those in detention like at police through outreachesand follow-ups.
- Refer cases to other legal aid service providers and specialized support institutions
International treaties and standards
- The United Nations Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System 1997
- The United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines) 1990
- The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (Tokyo Rules) 1990
- United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules) 1985
- The 1995 Constitution of Uganda
- The Children (Amendment) Act 2016
- The Penal Code Act Cap 120
- The Local Council Courts Act 2006
- The Children (Family and Children Court) Rules SI 59-1
- The Judicature (Criminal Procedure) (Applications) Rules SI 13-8
- The Probation (Probation Committees) (Constitution and Duties) Rules SI 122
- The Sentencing Guidelines Practice Directions 2013
- The Local Council Courts Rules 2007